The following editorial appeared in the Fayetteville Observer:
The teachers gathered at a board meeting of the Cumberland County Association of Educators were angry.
The school system had changed its formula for teachers’ supplementary pay and eliminated longevity pay. The teachers said they didn’t see the move coming. For most of them, it amounts to a half-percent reduction in the supplemental pay they get from the county, on top of their base pay from the state.
We’re not talking about a lot of money here, but in a state that’s already one of the lowest-paying, it’s still painful.
Cumberland County’s teachers aren’t the only ones who are angry and hurting. In wealthier districts and in the dirt-poor ones, the mood is bleak. Teachers have seen cut after cut – lower pay, fewer teacher assistants, less money for supplies. The union-phobic General Assembly is even trying to prevent deduction of their association dues from their paychecks.
Lawmakers say they support improving education in North Carolina, but teachers nevertheless feel targeted and vilified. It’s hard to argue that they’re wrong.
There’s really only one way to turn that problem around – unless lawmakers aren’t alarmed by the already-steady flow of experienced teachers to other, better-paying states. And that’s to give North Carolina teachers a good raise.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson has a number in mind. She told the House Select Committee on Education Strategy and Practices last week that teachers should get an across-the-board 10 percent raise this year.
Atkinson also urged the lawmakers to build a salary plan for teachers in layers, starting with a foundation of higher base pay. On top of that, she would add $10,000 for teachers who take leadership roles, additional pay for teams of teachers who go to low-performing schools, and more raises for teachers whose schools exceed their academic growth targets.
We’ve already heard some bipartisan support for teacher raises, although we’re not sure that this fiscally conservative edition of the General Assembly is ready to take that big a leap. A 10 percent raise would cost the state about $540 million.
Still, state cash flow continues to trend upward and revenue substantially exceeds budget. If that’s the case after the April 15 tax haul is tallied, then the state can afford to do right by its teachers.
A decade or so ago, North Carolina had built its teacher salaries close to the median for all American teachers. Since then, we’ve fallen far behind. It’s time to get teachers’ salaries back where they belong.
Tribune Content Agency